By Jason Wojciechowski on January 3, 2012 at 9:15 AM
Welcome back to the real world, everyone.
The biggest actual news is that the A's are interested in bringing back Coco Crisp, per Susan Slusser. Apparently Coco has made up his mind on where he's signing but hasn't announced it yet. I guess he wants to get the word around to his family before he takes it public?
Slusser also notes that the A's have talked to Ryan Ludwick and Conor Jackson in addition to the Cody Ross stuff we talked about yesterday. The clear sign here is that Billy Beane doesn't want to go into 2012 with the outfield he has and is not content to simply sign AAA depth to be ready in case of injury. I assume Crisp, Ross, and Ludwick would be signed as starters. (Conor Jackson could conceivably be a fourth outfielder type.) This seems weird, but maybe Beane is perfectly happy leaving Michael Taylor or Colin Cowgill in Sacramento until they force their way up.
In theory, I'd rather just let these guys sink or swim in the majors, but the A's know a lot more about developing prospects than I do. Perhaps they see a good developmental reason for letting some of the fringier guys play in AAA for another half year. Or perhaps they are more confident in their ability to translate AAA performance into major-league projections than we are on the outside.
None of it really matters, frankly. The A's collection of outfielders is to be sifted through to see who can be a league-average regular, not to see who can be a star -- it doesn't appear that any of these players, past prospect status notwithstanding, has any big-time upside left.
I will say this: if it's really to be Coco Crisp on the A's, then thank goodness it's him and not Cody Ross. Ken Arneson spent a little time on Twitter yesterday talking about "watchability," which is important. We're all fans, and much as we like to think like GMs on our blogs and Twitter, we still sit down and watch the games (unlike Billy Beane). I'm not sure that Cody Ross satisfied the "pleasing on the eye" test any more than Michael Taylor or whoever would have, but Coco Crisp most certainly does.
Jeff Fletcher makes a bunch of similar points about development of prospects, noting that "there are more elements to development than simply throwing every unproven player you can find on the field and letting them play." I have no ability to judge how important the elements he mentions are, but the fact is that the A's have a plan, and Fletcher's points likely reflect elements of that plan, and the A's have spent a lot more time and money developing that plan than I have.
On the other hand, how much deference is owed a team that has developed half a Daric Barton and a league-average Kurt Suzuki and that's basically it as far as hitters?
David Wishinsky disagrees with Fletcher, arguing that the A's can create competition and have veterans around without signing starter-type players who will take plate appearances away from the kids. Fletcher brushed aside the plate appearances argument, but I think Wishinsky has the best of it -- Oakland has Colin Cowgill, Michael Taylor, Josh Reddick, and Brandon Allen who might be candidates for OF at-bats. Even if there are 2000 to go around, that's 500 apiece. Signing a Cody Ross certainly does push someone out, whether it's one of these four or Chris Carter, who could lose at-bats to Allen by virtue of the latter being shoved into the DH spot. (This assumes that the A's take Allen seriously as an outfielder at all. It's possible that they see him as a 1B only and have already put Chris Carter in an outside-looking-in position.)
As to the other issues, which essentially come down to psychology and development, at the risk of repeating myself: I don't know.
Jason Parks does his "What Could Go Wrong" about the A's prospects for 2012. ($$$) One thing that I love that Parks does is note his background with each player -- has he seen him play, or is he relying only on sources? This should be a required disclosure by every prospect analyst. I'm not going to give too much summary of the piece because it is behind the paywall, but one taste: A.J. Cole should spend the year working on his changeup, and this could result in some bumps in the road as far as his statistics, especially as regards lefties teeing off on a still-in-the-works change.
In ex-A's news, Omar Quintanilla is now a Met.
At The Hardball Times, Chris Jaffe has a Hall of Fame projection system that you might want to read about. Of note to A's fans is Mark McGwire, who Jaffe anticipates getting 24% of the vote, up from 20% last year.